Using Google in the early 2000s was a much simpler process. You’d run a search query and Google would return 10 blue links. No knowledge boxes, no Google Shopping, no Google Maps.
As Google co-founder Larry Page said in 2004: “We want to get you out of Google and to the right places as fast as possible”. Google was a search engine and the aim was to get you to your chosen destination as soon as possible.
Things are a bit more different these days and research undertaken by The Markup suggests that the right place is Google. They examined more than 15,000 popular search queries and some of the most interesting results were that:
- 41% of the first page on mobile devices are directions to Google’s own properties.
- 63% of the cut-off/first screen of a mobile device is taken up by Google products.
- For 1 in 5 searches, links to external websites on the cut-off/first screen did not appear at all.
Pressure is growing on Google in both the EU and USA for what is perceived to be as an unfair advantage over independently created ecommerce websites.
Type in a medical search and you will see Google’s dictionary definition, a people also ask box, a knowledge panel and related conditions, before you see any organic listings from WebMD, the NHS or XYZ University.
This isn’t some minor exception but indeed a growing issue that is affecting a number of industries. Travel research firm Skift said, “the fact that Google is leveraging its dominance as a search engine into taking market share away from travel competitors is no longer debatable.”
Google criticised the Markups research saying that technology has developed and that whereas before it was necessary for people to be directed to websites, now this is not always the case.
When Google Flights and Google Hotels was launched, they quickly developed into market leaders. Search engine expert Rand Fishkin said this is all part of a longer strategy, and if people start to use Google for flights, they will eventually start using Google for restaurants, hotels and everything else.
Travel firms Together, Expedia and Booking spent a total of $5.8 billion of Google advertising for the year ending September 2019. Some industry figures are saying that it is completely unfair for Google to be competing against its own advertisers.
Research has shown that Google Flights did not show all available flights, nor did it show the cheapest flights. Google Flights is not seen as anywhere near the best product within the industry, which makes its prominence above all other professional website decidedly worrying.
Google has profited at the expense of many companies – that is crystal clear. It will be interesting to see how this trend continues with Google under the microscope in both the EU and the UK.
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